IPL auctions

Understanding why Imran Tahir, the world’s best T20 bowler, isn’t good enough for the IPL

Perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye.

Take 1: “He’s bowling well but…”

Take 2: “Have to remember that there are seven Indian players in each squad and we know how to play spin…”

Take 3: “Indian spinners are just as good…”

Take 4: “Foreign players have to make greater impact…”

There are strange decisions and, then, there is this. Imran Tahir may be the top-ranked bowler in international T20 and ODI cricket, but he is clearly not good enough in the eyes of the Indian Premier League.

IPL team officials on condition of annonimity gave out reasons, rather excuses, detailing why the 37-year-old went unsold at Monday’s auction ahead of the 2017 tournament, despite coming in with a low base price of just Rs 50 lakhs.

Not only that, Tahir has also been in good form. In his last T20I before the auction, he claimed 5-24 against New Zealand at Auckland. He has also gotten fitter and his fielding isn’t that much of a black hole anymore. So this decision to not pick him beggars belief.

Pravin Amre, who is the assistant coach of the Delhi Daredevils – the team that released Tahir last year – feels that his team clearly had no need for Tahir anymore.

“We have Amit Mishra as part of the squad and bowlers like Jayant Yadav and M Ashwin give us solid strenght in the spin department. Even last year, Mishra played all the games but we couldn’t find a way to fit Tahir into our XI. That is why we let him go.”

While Delhi has a reason, what might the others have to say?

Karn Sharma once again attracted the big bucks. And while he remains an interesting, if not compelling, talent, is he as good as Tahir? The Indian leg-spinner was bought for Rs 3.2 crore by the Mumbai Indians. The argument, then, is that he is an Indian spinner and you have only four slots for the foreign players.

But then how does one explain Rashid Khan, the 18-year-old leg-spinner who was bought for Rs 4 crore? The bowler from Afghanistan has been playing international cricket for less than 18 months and can’t really compete with Tahir in terms of experience. But what he may have going for him is that he naturally tends to bowl a flatter trajectory – slightly more difficult to get under and loft for a six.

Mishra, the most successful leg-spinner in the IPL, however, has based his strategy on trying to pick up as many wickets as possible. And that attacking mindset is usually based on how flight and turn.

In the IPL, players are usually looking to attack at all times. It also means that they are perhaps not as vigilant as they would normally be in Test cricket or in ODIs. So the chance of them failing to pick up a variation is that much higher as well. This is exactly where a leg-spinner fits in perfectly.

Wrist-spinners have a better chance of ‘getting lucky’ because they usually give the ball a rip. The top-spinner and googly vatiations – if executed well – also make them potent threats. All things that should have counted in Tahir’s favour, but instead they didn’t.

Another argument floating around is that Indians are good players of spin but then why pay that kind of money for Rashid and not place any value on Tahir?

When a Cheteshwar Pujara or Ishant Sharma don’t get picked, one can perhaps argue that T20 cricket needs specialists. When a Tymal Mills gets Rs 12 crore, one can perhaps say that he is a T20 specialist. When a Ben Stokes becomes the most expensive foreign signing in IPL history, one can put it down to his ability to win the match with bat or ball. But when Tahir doesn’t get picked, the only excuse is that the logic was flawed.

Sunil Narine was worth his place in the side on the strength of his bowling alone. He was picked and he won matches for his team either by taking wickets or by maintaining a superb economy rate. Is there any reason to believe that the world’s best T20I (well, according to the rankings at least) is not capable of doing the same.?

Perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye because if you go by cricketing logic alone, Tahir should have attracted a bidding war. The headline of this piece mentions ‘understanding’ but even attempting to is frustrating, because there really is no understanding this.

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